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How to Get a Cheap Safari in Arusha

By Ian Williamson
Tip! During the rainy season, which lasts from mid-March to June, there tend to be less travellers and the cost of a Tanzania safari is lower. Don't be put off by this though as the game viewing opportunities are still excellent.

First of all remember cheap is not always best. Spend as much as you can afford, the trick is to try to get a quality safari at a reasonable price. Don't believe all you are told.

I recently met someone in Arusha who had decided to take a two-day safari to Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara. He managed to get a very good deal. The plan was to set off at 8am sharp and returning the next day at 6pm; he was also guaranteed window seat.

The following day he arrived at the safari company office in downtown Arusha. The safari set off at 10am and they broke down on the way to the National Parks - twice.

The passengers had to get out and push the rather old safari vehicle to get it going again. The car was full resulting in one person not having a window seat. The following day they returned at 8.30pm as the car was only able to return at a very slow speed.

Fact Although temperatures vary across the country, the hottest months for Tanzania as a whole are from October to February.

If time is not an issue spend a day or two in Arusha looking for the right deal for you. To be rushed for time is not conducive to finding a good deal.

IF you are to spend more than one night in the Serengeti - try to ensure only one night is in the Seronera Valley. This valley is the central Serengeti and has a high concentration of game year round. Operators get lazy and just send all their clients to this area.

To have at least one night in the northern Serenegeti or southern Serengeti will make the safari more exciting. Which area of the Serenegeti will depend on what time of year it is and where the migration is heading? If the operator tells you otherwise consider changing operators - there are many in Arusha.

Tarangire is a good park in the dry season - make sure you are camping inside the Tarangire [a little extra cost for a campsite inside the National Parks] and make sure you travel to the wilderness area of this most underrated park. If it is the rainy season then don't bother with Tarangire at all.

Tip! An adventure canoeing safari has been introduced around one of lakes located in the Arusha National Park and has quickly become popular with visitors to the park.

It is not all location either. If you are staying in lodges then the more expensive the lodge the better the experience. Small lodges in remote parts of the National Parks can be expensive but the quality of safari makes the expense insignificant.

In the centre of Arusha is TTB - the Tanzania Tourist Board. A nice clean air-conditioned office; it has two desks and two very helpful staff. There is a notice board here that heralds recommended safari companies who are looking for extra people to fill a safari vehicle. This is the place to start your hunt for the bargain safari.

Ask at the TTB for recommended safari companies and where to find their offices. Also the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Office is next door - there is a very nice lady here who can also help by pointing you toward the right companies.

Did you Know?
Tanzania lies just south of the equator and is the largest country in East Africa, covering 937,062 sq km.

Once you start to look for a safari, you will be noticed. Noticed that is by the ‘fly-catchers'. These are pleasant young men who make a living by guiding tourists to safari companies; they then get commission. It is best to avoid any temptation you have to make a deal with these young fly-catchers. They have eyes set upon the commission only and a quality safari is seldom purchased on the street.

You will also be prey to the ‘others' who sell curios. It can be an overwhelming and panicky situation the first time you are exposed to an onslaught of flycatchers and the others. Remember as Westerners we enjoy the luxury of a huge personal space - in Africa this is an alien concept so up close and personal is the way to do business.

Tip! Discuss pertinent health issues with your doctor (in good time) prior to embarking on your African safari.

Being nasty does not work. All negotiations and conversations should be carried out with good humour and to enjoy yourself is the order of the day.

Low season is the best way to get a luxury safari at budget prices. Low season is through the long rains. However, it does not rain for the whole of the time and in recent years the rains have been very sparse indeed. The few tourists and low prices make any safari a pleasure at this time of year. Each park has something special to offer in every season.

Another way to make money go further is to travel to some of the amazing places in Tanzania, such as Uru Village on Kilimanjaro, or the Usambara Mountains, Pangani, the Southern Pare Mountains - these areas have no big game and no park fees. They are easily reached on local transport, have reasonable budget lodges or home-stays on offer.

For a very little money you can live for a time in Africa proper - where there are very few or no other tourists for miles. What a way to experience Africa and get to know the Tanzania people. Take a rest from lion spotting; it can become very tedious for many people after the first few prides… whereas exploring the Usambara or Pare Mountains could take you all your life with two days never the same.

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